The Fascinating Origins Of “Six Feet Under”

BurialYou’ve likely heard of the saying, “six feet under” before. Memorial gardens that oversee funerals and burials still likely incorporate the age-old “rule” in their interment services. The saying goes that the deceased should all be buried at a standard depth of six feet below the ground. But have you ever wondered why? Centenary Memorial Gardens shares a brief discussion below:

No Prior Relevance

“Six Feet Under” had little to no relevance to burial customs at first. There were no rules that exactly state how deep the dead should be buried. A few guidelines along these lines, however, exist. For instance, a coffin can be covered by at least 18 inches of dirt. What this means is that you can technically bury a person less than two feet underground. Shallower graves (and much deeper ones) even exist in other places.

The standard depth can be even more complicated. You can’t bury the dead much deeper in a flood-prone area because the body will be at risk of becoming waterlogged. At times, the remains can even rise from the ground due to these conditions. Just ask the people in New Orleans (which is notorious for heavy rains) where coffins can literally explode out of the ground due to the same conditions.

The Horror That Plagued London Town

Back in 1665, London was stricken by the same plague that killed off over half of Europe’s population in the 14th Century. Caused by an extremely infectious disease, the plague outbreak in London prompted the city’s mayor to take measures. Among the most notable decrees was the burial of the dead six feet under. He probably thought that dead, infected bodies lying out in the open can further the disease’s spread — and technically, he was right.

Renowned author Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame) also wrote about this subject, though it’s debated whether his writings are credible. It’s because the author’s fictionalised account of the plague’s spread, A Journal of the Plague Year, is used as reference. Experts contend that it was based on the journal of someone who lived through that time.

But, no matter how “six feet under” really came to be, the saying still stuck to this day.